Bonner Leader Program

Bonner Leaders Cap

Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve

If you have a passion for public service and a desire to be a positive force in your community, Wilkes University’s Bonner Leader Program can help you build the skills you need to lead the charge for change.

During your time at Wilkes, you’ll commit to participate in this unique work-study experience that blends community service with enrichment and training activities. The program provides financial support for your education and promotes:

  • Leadership
  • Self-awareness
  • Professional skills

You’ll join a nationally acclaimed, service-based initiative. From its introduction by the Bonner Foundation in 1990, the Bonner Leader Program has grown to a multi-faceted civic engagement and leadership program hosted by a network of more than 70 colleges and universities.

Inspired by the motto “Access to Education, Opportunity to Serve,” Bonner alumni share their talents on a local, national and global level.

Wilkes is the only university in northeastern Pennsylvania and one of just eight universities in the state to offer the Bonner Leader program.

Bonner Eligibility

Wilkes University seeks diverse applicants who want to make their corner of the world a better place.

You may be eligible for the Wilkes Bonner Leader program if you...

  • Possess a fierce desire to change the world.
  • Demonstrate active service involvement in your high school or community.
  • Will be an incoming first-year student in the fall semester.
  • Have submitted a FAFSA to Wilkes University.
  • Are eligible for a federal work-study award and demonstrate financial need.
Preference will be given to...
  • Those with high school grade-point average of 2.75 and above.
  • Individuals from diverse backgrounds.
  • Recipients of Wilkes University Colonel Emerging Leader Award.

Program Benefits

The Bonner Leader program offers transformative advantages to you, the Wilkes campus and the surrounding area:

  • Earn work-study pay for eight to 10 hours of program service, training and reflection each week.
  • Gain valuable work experience, leadership skills and career insight by engaging in progressively more challenging and meaningful training and community service activities.
  • Develop an appreciation for experiences of those different from you.
  • Become an essential part of peer and staff support that cultivates a stronger sense of belonging on campus.
  • Have the opportunity to participate in regional and national conferences.
  • Network with other members of this nationally recognized program.
  • Become an active leader on campus and in the community.

Bonner Commitment

Participation in the Bonner Leader Program is a four-year commitment to yourself, your campus and your community.

As a Bonner Leader at Wilkes, You Will...

  • Commit to six to eight hours per week — about 270 hours per academic year — of direct service in the community.
  • Participate in regular training and enrichment activities.
  • Assume leadership roles in various on-campus civic engagement initiatives.
  • Participate in cornerstone activities, including the first-year alternative break trip and second-year exchange with Bonner Leaders from other schools.
  • Present a senior capstone project.

Five Es of Bonner

The Bonner Leader Program is driven by the Five Es:


If you’re chosen for the program, Wilkes has recognized your passion for service and your commitment to use your talents to make a positive impact on the community.


From the start of the program, we’ll encourage you to explore the Wilkes-Barre community by way of service and to refine your sense of self-awareness and civic identity through weekly trainings and reflections.


While performing direct service at a local agency, you will receive in-depth training and work closely with staff to further understand their mission and analyze community issues. You will also gain valuable experience coordinating major service initiatives on campus.


As you advance into their third and fourth years in the program, you will assume advanced responsibilities within selected community agencies and take on more significant capacity building projects.


At the conclusion of the Bonner experience, you will be able to better recognize, discuss and analyze complex social issues affecting both Wilkes-Barre and our broader society.

In the final year of the program, you will present a senior capstone project showcasing an in-depth analysis of issues from your service experience.

Year-by-Year Overview

Bonner Leaders follow a four-year student development model that blends direct service in the community along with enrichment and training activities designed to promote leadership, self-awareness, and professional skill set.

Year 1

Spend six to eight hours a week serving at a community agency and one to two hours in formal education, training and reflection sessions. Leaders are afforded the opportunity to participate in an alternative break service trip with their cohort in the spring and may also pursue summer internships throughout their first three years in the program.

Year 2

In addition to direct service and trainings, begin to assume more expanded leadership roles on campus. Present educational sessions to the first-year cohort and take on significant roles in ongoing campus initiatives sponsored by the Civic Engagement Office such as blood drives, Special Olympics, Into the Streets Clean-up, and Alternative Break. Participate in the “second-year exchange,” providing service outside your region.

Years 3 & 4

While continuing participation in the periodic cohort educational sessions and trainings, take on more significant capacity-building projects within direct-service agencies. As a fourth-year student, complete and present a senior capstone project connecting knowledge from academic studies and Bonner sessions to direct service experiences.

Meet Our Leaders


Brenda Arias

Hometown: Hanover Township, PA
Major: Hospitality Leadership
“I see so many things that are wrong in this world that need to be fixed and just talking about it doesn’t help it, but doing something can.”

Emily Blaine

Hometown: Shavertown, PA
Major: Pre-Pharmacy
"I want to be a Bonner because I will be doing something I love by helping others through my actions and helping others succeed in what they love.”

Bhavika "Nikki" Dawar

Hometown: Sparta, NJ
Major: Undeclared
“I ultimately chose to be a part of Bonner because the act of service is what has connected me to my hometown Sparta, NJ. Through service projects in my community I was able to grow closer to my community members and build relationships that will last a lifetime. I want to use my past service experiences as the ground work for my future at Wilkes to grow closer to my new home.”

Ava Musloski

Hometown: Avoca, PA
Major: Biochemistry (Pre-Med)
“My goal as a leader is to reach out to people, both on a professional and personal level making everyone feel welcomed and how important their roles is in the community... Community involvement and my patriotism along with my scholastic achievements are my greatest attributes that aids me in my role as a Bonner Leader.”

Alexis Nardone

Hometown: Rockaway, NJ
Major: Early Childhood Education
"What I hope to get out of the Bonner Program is the ability to serve and help people. This has always been a passion of mine...I believe that helping people is the greater goal. Every individual brings something unique to a program and offers useful qualities."

Amelia "Mia" O'Connor

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Major: Nursing
“I want to be a Bonner Leader because ever since I was young service has been a part of my life. In my opinion, service is one of the things I have been called to do for the mutual benefit of others. I do service to help make the world a better place for those to come in the future.”

Marytere Quintana-Avila

Hometown: Scranton, PA
Major: Political Science
“Growing up, I understood the sense of relief such programs
like Bonners, would bring to families. At a young age I learned the value of helping others and the impact it holds. With that being said, I knew I wanted to devote my service in helping others in anyway
shape or form. The Bonners Leaders Program was the perfect program for me and what I was interested in accomplishing. I just knew I had to be a part of it.”

Ada Soriano

Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, PA
Major: Pre-Pharmacy
"Being involved in community service is one of my objectives in life and I believe that the Bonner Leaders program can assist me with that goal.”

How to Apply

If you are ready to grow through access to education and opportunity to serve, apply to be a Bonner Leader at Wilkes.

Each year, the University will select only eight to 10 incoming first-year students via a competitive application process. You must be admitted to Wilkes University to apply.

Deadline is March 31 prior to your semester at Wilkes.

Finalists will be invited for an interview with the selection committee that will take place on campus or via Zoom. Students selected into the program will be notified shortly thereafter.

Apply to Bonner

Questions? Contact

Catie Becker

Bonner Leader Program Coordinator